Towards a full implementation of the Cabotage Act 2003 to promote indigenous shipping, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and key industry players are set to end cabotage waivers for non-indigenous ship owners within the next five years.
The proposal, which emerged during a meeting in Lagos between NIMASA and the stakeholders, centred on the need for collaboration to facilitate optimal implementation of the act.
According to the NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the agency, pursuant to its mandate of promoting and regulating shipping in Nigeria, will ensure that cabotage waivers ceased in the next five years.
At NIMASA we have “no intentions to stifle anybody’s business,” a statement by the Head of Corporate Communications, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, quoted Peterside to say. “Rather, we are committed to promoting, protecting and providing the enabling environment so that the local ship owners can grow and compete with their international counterparts.”
Peterson, who was represented by the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Mr. Gambo Ahmed, told the stakeholders that part of the strategies to end the waiver issuance was to develop infrastructure, as well as develop human capital, with respect to training of seafarers, to attain global standards.
Therefore, he called on the stakeholders to cooperate with the agency to realise the cabotage implementation, which he said holds a huge potential to create jobs, add to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and bring about economic boom.
Also speaking, a former head of NIMASA, Mr. Temisan Omatseye, noted that the agency was the only body recognised and mandated by government to regulate and enforce shipping activities in Nigeria.
He urged the agency to use its powers to ensure total compliance with the Cabotage Act, including apply punitive measures against erring shipping companies. He added: “If we don’t begin to enforce the cabotage law, the use of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) will be defeated.”
Similarly, Mr. Neeraj Kumar of TMC Shipping Pvt, India, commended the efforts to implement the act, describing ports as critical to economic growth. He pledged India’s readiness to collaborate with Nigeria, especially in the area of shipbuilding.
Other stakeholders at the event, including Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN), Mrs. Obiageli Obi of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, and President of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Mr. Aminu Umar, also welcomed the move.
While commending the agency’s moves to actualise a robust maritime sector through stakeholder-oriented programmes, they promised full support and cooperation and urged the Federal Government’s backing to ensure greater indigenous participation in the maritime sector.
Part III, Section 9-11 of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003 provides for waiver on the requirements for ownership and manning of cabotage vessels by Nigerians, as well as building of such vessels in Nigeria, where capacity is lacking.
However, to encourage more indigenous participation, which is the essence of the Act, NIMASA plans to stop the waiver and has put in place a strategic plan, including the New Cabotage Compliance Strategy (NCCS), under which certain categories of waivers have been suspended.